The goal was to have the fund reach a range between $20k and $25k so the fund could sustain political expenses and travel. Once Nixon was nominated for VP, the fund started to allot $500/month for household use, which was paid directly to the Nixons, which if nothing else made it easier for Pat to travel with her husband (that $500/mo was also earmarked for house cleaning and for a nanny).
The title of Edson’s column was straightforward: “Nixon Aided Financially by Rich Californians”, but his more factual version took a back seat to the New York Post. The Post had a reporter in CA named Leo Katcher that had been “tipped” by loyalists of Earl Warren. The New York Post’s headline was “Secret Rich Men’s Trust Fund Keeps Nixon in Style Far Beyond His Salary”. The story itself wasn’t lurid, but the headline did the damage and a political firestorm ensued. The Post simply didn’t do any fact-checking: the Nixon’s lived the life of typical middle class Americans, living in comfort, but not in luxury.
Ike heard of the headline when his campaign train was crossing Nebraska, and by the evening, there was “great concern” among Ike’s campaign staff. A statement was drafted for the press that urged Nixon to release all relevant documents concerning the fund. Ike was caught in a political vice, in that he had railed against corruption in the Truman administration, and now corruption was possibly part of his campaign for President. Ike’s campaign had even taken on a tone of righteousness, and now his political crusade was in jeopardy.
Ecstatic liberal reporters commented out loud that Ike would have to let Nixon go as VP . The veterans in Ike’s campaign staff wanted to ride out the storm, since it would be disastrous to admit that Ike’s first major Presidential-level decision was a blunder. The less experienced campaign staff members, who were actually closer to Ike, were furious with Nixon and very worried about Ike’s image, and they wanted Nixon to vanish. For the chronically insecure Nixon, the next few days were hell; Eisenhower, Stassen, Dewey, and other powerful Republican patrons abandoned Nixon, and his enemies closed in for the kill. In CA, Warren and Knowland were very active in trying to pressure Ike to dump Nixon.
The most loyal and truest friends Nixon had at that time were Murray Chotiner and his wife Pat; both told Nixon to rally in the face of the attacks. From his wife especially, Nixon found his resolve to fight back instead of perhaps holding a press conference (that no doubt would have sounded a lot like his meltdown in 1962). By the weekend, the liberal media was sure that Nixon was guilty of income tax evasion. A plan of attack had formed in Nixon’ mind, in that he wanted to present his side straight to the people. Nixon soon learned that Knowland had been summoned by Ike’s staff, which told Nixon that he was about to be cut loose as VP.
Ike found time to talk with Nixon on the telephone soon after the headlines appeared. Ike directly suggested that Nixon go on television and defend himself, which Nixon had already planned to do. What Ike wanted Nixon to do was to perform a “full financial scrubbing” on television; the televised speech had to mend the wound. Ike then told Nixon that he would wait a few days after the televised speech before he let Nixon know where he stood on the ticket. Nixon suspended his campaign on the train and went back to Los Angeles for an unprecedented televised address to the nation by a Vice-Presidential candidate. Once the televised speech was announced, most in the media were sure that Nixon would step down.
Nixon’s process for writing his own speeches stayed the same throughout his political career. Nixon used his beloved yellow legal pad to write a series of drafts until he not only was happy with what he would say, but also so familiar with the speech that he really didn’t need to use notes during the speech.
Nixon also remembered a phrase he had used after the slush fund charges had come out when in response to a heckler that held a sign that wanted to know where Pat’s mink coat was, Nixon stated that his wife wore a respectable “Republican cloth coat”. Nixon showed his audacity by how he would close his TV speech, in that he would ask the viewers to respond . . . but to whom? If the responses were sent directly to Nixon, the Democrats would accuse him of shenanigans, so Nixon decided that the responses should be sent to the Republican National Committee (RNC).
An hour before the telecast, Dewey called Nixon on behalf of Ike’s entourage. Dewey told Nixon that after the broadcast he was expected to step down as Ike’s VP. Under questioning from Nixon, Dewey admitted that he hadn’t actually been told to make that demand to Nixon by Ike. After he asked Nixon what he planned to do, an incredulous, devastated, and furious Nixon told Dewey to find out by watching the broadcast.
Ted Rogers was a television producer/director who had met Nixon in 1950, and he was part of Nixon’s campaign staff. Rogers arranged for the “Library Set” to be used in the studio, with a chair for Pat off to the side of the desk. Nixon did not want to rehearse, so everything was planned on the fly by Rogers and his team. After basically flubbing his opening remarks, Nixon got on a roll, and he knew he was in the process of nailing his speech, especially when he stopped looking at his notes. Nixon was again on stage and acting, as he had in high school and college. Soon, Nixon told the television audience that he was going to do something unprecedented in politics by showing his financial standing to all (Pat had begged him not to do so beforehand) . . .